- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Attorneys for former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr. rested their case in the CIA leak trial yesterday after a day of legal wrangling over classified information and whether additional witnesses could be presented.

Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald called no rebuttal witnesses, ending the testimony phase of the trial. Closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday.

The final day of testimony in Mr. Libby’s perjury and obstruction trial had been billed as a blockbuster. Attorneys said for months that Mr. Libby and his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, would testify for the defense.

But Mr. Libby’s attorneys reversed course Tuesday and said neither man would testify, leaving yesterday to fight over whether NBC newsman Tim Russert could be called back to testify and how much evidence jurors would hear in Mr. Libby’s absence.

The change in who would testify prompted U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton to reverse course, too. He told defense attorneys that if Mr. Libby didn’t testify he would not allow some classified information to be presented to the jury as Mr. Libby’s defense team had planned.

“My absolute understanding was that Mr. Libby was going to testify,” Judge Walton said, recalling why he had agreed months ago to allow some classified information into evidence. “My ruling was based on the fact that he was going to testify.”

Judge Walton’s decision blocked Mr. Libby’s plans to call three CIA briefers yesterday to testify about the classified national security issues Mr. Libby faced in mid-2003, when CIA operative Valerie Plame was named in the press.

Mr. Libby wanted that testimony to bolster his claim that he never lied to investigators but rather forgot details about Mrs. Plame’s exposure because he was consumed by his workload as Mr. Cheney’s top aide.

Instead of hearing the CIA witnesses, jurors heard a speech from defense attorney John Cline about Mr. Libby’s briefings on terrorist threats, bomb scares, insurgent attacks and other issues.

Mr. Libby’s defense team also wanted to call Mr. Russert, a key prosecution witness, back to the stand to explain an apparent inconsistency in his testimony. Judge Walton turned down the request.

Mr. Russert testified last week that he never discussed Mrs. Plame with Mr. Libby. Mr. Libby told investigators that Mr. Russert asked about Mrs. Plame and said “all the reporters” knew she worked at the CIA.

The Libby-Russert differences in testimony lie at the heart of the case. Mr. Libby is accused of making up Mr. Russert’s call to cover up other conversations he had with reporters and obstruct an investigation into who leaked Mrs. Plame’s identity to reporters.

No one has been charged with revealing that Mrs. Plame was a CIA operative.

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